Last St. Patrick’s Day my wife played a few fun tricks on our little ones. For breakfast she dropped a splash of green food coloring in the frying pan before adding the eggs. My four-year-old caught a glimpse of her sneaking about. When the eggs started to turn green my wife said it must be the leprechauns playing tricks. My son thoughtfully commented, “Leprechaun’s have red hair. You don’t have red hair. So it must not have been a leprechaun.” I was stunned that a four-year-old could turn such a textbook logical argument. (I’ll allow that he omitted a minor premise.) I was proud of my little guy. After all, isn’t it cold Reason and its prized pupil Logic that set us apart from lesser beasts?
On the other hand that same four-year-old is deadly convinced that there is a “gunny monster” that will eat his toys if they’re left out. Even after we’ve told him that there is no such monster, he’s meticulous about picking up every night…just in case.
It turns out wild imagination and logic are really two sides of the same coin: They are both uniquely human attributes. In a Cartesian world there’s no question which is more prized, but it is imagination/passion/faith that is by far the more powerful. Think of it this way, all technological, scientific, and artistic achievements are a product of faith. Faith is not stepping to the edge of the light and leaping blindly into the dark hoping there’s something worthwhile there. True faith is exercising every ounce of strength we possess in pursuit of something that may exist nowhere but in our own minds, but is true. If what you believe turns out to be false despite a rational degree of belief in its truthfulness, then it was not true faith. Putting a man on the moon was an act of pure faith. It had never been done. Many were convinced of it’s possibility and worked their guts out until it was accomplished.
So what does this have to do with probability and statistics? This post is already too long, so I’ll leave that for another time.